Announcing the 2021 CSCI Seed Fund Competition Winners

Three projects led by CSCI faculty have been selected for the 2021 CSCI Seed Fund Program, the 4th annual competition designed to jumpstart new stem cell research projects and promote collaboration among CSCI members. Eligilble to CSCI full members only, receipients are awarded $50,000 for a 2-year project period. 


Chia-Wei Cheng

Assistant Professor of Genetics and Development

“Nutrigenomic origin of pediatric intestinal stem cell impairment and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)”

Our research takes the nutrigenomic approach to study mechanisms harnessing stem cell functionality as a strategy to prevent inflammation disease. As growing concern regarding early-onset colorectal cancer (CRC) associated with pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), one future direction of the study will be investigating the nutrigenomic underpinnings of the pro-tumor inflammation. We hope the new mechanistic links and therapeutic targets identified in this study inspire novel therapeutic designs centered on metabolite-mediated signaling. 



Vincenzo Alessandro Gennarino

Assistant Professor of Genetics and Development

 “Understanding the role of polyadenylation in neural differentiation.”

Through alternative polyadenylation (APA), a gene can give rise to two or more mRNA isoforms that differ in the length of their 3’UTRs and thus in their susceptibility to post-transcriptional regulatory factors such as microRNAs and RNA-binding proteins. We have found that part of the APA machinery known as the CFIm complex is dysfunctional in two different neurodevelopmental diseases, with each disease being caused by mutations in a different component of the CFIm complex. Our data suggest that these mutations interfere with neural stem cell differentiation, causing abnormal brain development by dysregulating members of the Notch signaling pathway, which is crucial for neural development. Understanding how the CFIm complex regulates Notch signaling will provide insight into neural stem cell behavior and the role of APA in neurodevelopment.

Joanna Smeeton

H.K. Corning Assistant Professor Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine Research

“ECM crosstalk with cell fate in ligament regeneration”

A major reason why arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States is that the cartilage and ligaments of human joints do not heal well on their own. In contrast, adult zebrafish heal joint supporting ligaments without the formation of a scar. Here we will investigate a zebrafish mutant that fails to properly heal following ligament injury to dissect the interplay between ECM niche and cell differentiation state during scar-free regeneration.